With the industry undergoing what many product planners now thinks is a permanent shift toward utility vehicles of every description, Ford Motor Co., which kicked off the boom in sport utility vehicles, back in the 1990s, offered a few broad hints about the four new SUVs and crossovers it is planning to introduce during the next four years.
Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of marketing, sales and service, said he could not offer any details about the vehicles that are in the company’s product pipeline. But he did offer some suggesting about what Ford’s future product portfolio.
“We don’t have a mini (crossover) that could slip into the company’s line-up underneath the Ford Escape,” LaNeve said.
But the sub-compact utility vehicle segment is drawing new competitors from the BMW X1 to the Honda HR-V, which are attracting new customers and helping redefine the crossover segment as it expands. Vehicles ranging from the Mini Clubman to the Infiniti QX30 are reshaping the definition of a crossover.
(Click Here for details about LaNeve’s thoughts on SUV sales going forward.)
The BMW X1 and X7 at the other end of the German automakers product portfolio along with the Mercedes-Benz CLA, demonstrate how manufacturers are expanding their line-ups to accommodate the demand.
Even General Motors, which has a history of following rather leading the charge into new areas, turned over the Chevrolet Trax in less than two years to keep pace with the evolution of utility segment.
“The crossover market is splintering and fragmenting,” said LaNeve, who indicated that Ford also has an interest in a more traditional sport-utility vehicle.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is looking for ways to expand production of the Jeep Wrangler. A very traditional SUV built for traveling over open country and Ford is looking at and is clearly tempted by the segment. It has been pushing ahead with some serious engineering studies, but hasn’t committed to the idea, Ford insiders have told TheDetroitBureau.com.
(Ford unveils new Explorer packages in Chicago. For more, Click Here.)
Nevertheless, the old Ford Bronco made a name for itself among off road enthusiast in the 1960s and 1970s and LaNeve acknowledged that “Bronco is a great name.”
A luxury SUV for Lincoln to compete with the cross overs offered by the likes of Lexus and the German manufacturers could make sense, LaNeve acknowledged during a post-speech scrum at the Chicago Auto Show.
Ford has been successful with its three ute strategy that includes the Escape, the Ford Edge and the Ford Explorer. Combined sales of three vehicles totaled close to 750,000 in 2015 as utility vehicles firmly established themselves as the industry’s key segment.
Ford sold more than 300,000 Escapes last year, making it the second most popular vehicle in the Ford showroom after the fabled F-150, which is one of the industry longest running success stories.
(To see more about the new Tacoma TRD Pro model, Click Here.)
Utility vehicles now account for roughly one third of all vehicles sold in the U.S. but could account for as much as 40% of sales by the end of the decade or sooner as manufacturers pour money into the competition for sales in what promises to be the industry’s largest and most stable segment for years to come.